Some of today’s standout acts may just owe their predecessors a round.
How many of you still venture into a store and buy a physical copy of an album? Very few, I imagine. Do we have even the time to sit down and listen to the classics? Probably not, but maybe we should.
I grew up listening to my father’s favourites, and because of that, I can appreciate the musicians that inspired the up-and-coming greats of today. I recently sat down with Dad and together, we deconstructed the playlist of my childhood.
I first embarked on a conversation about Bob Dylan and his gift to the musical world. We spoke while Dad admired the new “funeral hat” he had purchased because it resembled one that Dylan, now 75, is often seen wearing. Needless to say, he’s a big fan.
Dad had always told me that Bob Dylan invented folk rock. I may not believe Dad when he tells me he didn’t eat the Tim Tams but I can absolutely get behind his statement about Dylan. Given his status as the ultimate courageous rock god, it’s unsurprising that he has influenced just about everybody.
It might come as a shock to some but Bob Dylan wrote Make You Feel My Love. As in, Adele. ADELE. And unbeknownst to most, Dylan’s Idiot Wind was the song that made Sinead O’Connor want to pursue a musical career. Dylan, the lyrical genius, also performed his hit Blowin’ In The Wind moments before Martin Luther King Jr. took to the stage to make his iconic “I have a dream” speech.
Prior to this year, a songwriter had never won a Nobel Prize. And then, on October 13, the Nobel committee announced that Dylan was the recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. They cited his icon status and praised “his influence on contemporary music”. Talk about a massive wrap.
Weeks later, when Dylan was to accept the award in a ceremony in Stockholm, he thought he’d give it a miss. Because he’s a rock star like that. He’s probably too busy polishing his Oscars, Golden Globes and Grammys or basking in the recognition of being one of Time’s 100 Most Important People of the Century.
There has been a lot of buzz over the last few years about a kid from Nottingham named Jake Bugg. He has been compared to early Dylan on more than one occasion (I know what you’re thinking, Dad: “the incomparable Bob Dylan”) and Telegraph has dubbed him “an East Midlands Bob Dylan”. It makes sense considering both the musicians slouch, smoke and don’t smile often. He might not be Dylan the deity, and Bugg has also questioned the comparison but he’s successfully managed to catch the attention of Generation Y… so why is Bob Dylan being left out of our playlists?
Neil Young and Bob Dylan have a deep friendship, with Young referring to himself “as a ‘B student’ of Bob Dylan”. Still, Neil Young is undeniably the Godfather of Grunge (and no, Dad didn’t pay me to say that).
“He was Kurt Cobain before Kurt Cobain,” Dad informed me while adjusting his new headwear. “He looked the same, dressed the same and sounded the same.”
I questioned the noticeable difference between Nirvana’s and Neil Young’s fame. Dad agreed. Kurt Cobain’s suicide note famously quoted Young’s song My My, Hey Hey with the line, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”
A number of artists have since been compared to Neil Young, including multi-instrumentalist Beck. As mainstream as he may appear today, Beck’s initial rise to fame saw him open for Young in 2000. Years later, Beck angered Kanye after beating out Beyonce for the 2015 Album of the Year Grammy.
In 2012, when Young played the Outside Lands festival in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Beck covered one of Young’s hits and the Foo Fighters followed, with Dave Grohl telling the crowd that the sooner he finished, the sooner they’d all get to hear Neil Young play. Young’s notoriety in the younger generation may appear minimal, but his impact on the musical world is not.
When someone tells me they’re “running on empty”, Jackson Browne’s song of the same name immediately enters my head. I can almost guarantee the same thing happens to my brother, considering the countless car trips we have shared with that song blaring on repeat.
Jackson Browne came to prominence among a wave of singer-song-writers in the early ’70s. His vocal delivery was consistently relaxed and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. That year, I wasn’t listening to Christina Aguilera’s newly-released Fighter or Ja Rule and Ashanti’s Mesmerize; I was listening to Jackson Browne.
Earlier this year, Drake covered Nico and Jackson Browne’s These Days and my Dad thought this was incredibly cool. (That level of coolness has since been surpassed by his new hat.)
Browne has never tried to “blues it up” and has no sense of trying to impress. His smash single Somebody’s Baby is THE song of my childhood and I’m proud to say I’m not mad about it. I appreciate Jackson Browne’s autobiographical art and that’s coming from a girl who wants Kanye elected in 2020.
All musicians are influenced and inspired by the greats that have gone before them. Whether that is portrayed through their music, or not, their predecessors have played some part in their rise to success. Justin Bieber fan? Perhaps put on a little Stevie Wonder. You might just enjoy it.
Last year, I saw Bob Dylan for the first time. This year, I saw Jackson Browne for the first time and next year, Dad and I are packing our gum boots, heading to Blues Fest and seeing Neil Young for the first time. I can’t wait.